So you’ve been deplatformed: a guide to moving on

Lauren and Stefan,

It seems that you have recently suffered a brutal and gratuitous deplatforming at the hands of our group. I understand that the two of you are very upset by this, and thus I have taken it upon myself to write a reply to you from the group to help you deal with this very sad (for you lol:)) incident.

Firstly we’d like to say that we can empathise with you: we get denied platforms for speech all the time. We’ve been blacklisted by Radio New Zealand, we have very little chance of getting our opinions into the newspaper or on TV and we have no contacts with a wide media reach. As you can see here, we’ve been reduced to printing zines and flyposting in the dead of night. And we haven’t even promoted genocide! We understand that being deplatformed can be very difficult to deal with: it’s upsetting to be denied an effective method for spreading your worldview to people, especially if you strongly believe your view to be correct. We’ve thus put together this guide for dealing with being deplatformed, including what rights you do and don’t have, how you might feel and how you can circumvent deplatforming.

  • Remember that it’s OK to feel upset

Being deplatformed can be very upsetting: it feels like you’ve been rejected by a society that thinks that your opinions, and by extension you, are wrong, immoral and degenerate. And it’s true that many people will think that’s the case, which can leave you feeling very isolated and lonely. These are all risk factors for anxiety and depression, so it’s important to know how to deal with that. The first thing to note is that it is legitimate to feel that way: believing that these feelings are wrong or bad is counterproductive and can lead to them becoming worse. Instead it’s good to talk through these feelings with someone whom you can talk openly and whom you trust: a friend, a family member or a friendly cleric, perhaps. A counsellor or a psychotherapist are also good options. Self – care is also important: make sure you get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, as missing any of these can make depression and anxiety significantly worse. Finally, consider spending time with people in non – political contexts: having friends with whom you do things that aren’t political is important. Have a few drinks together, watch a movie, or even go to bars and flirt shamelessly (though respectfully). All this will help you deal with the feelings of hurt and upset that you might be feeling.

  • If you speak, be prepared for consequences

Freedom of speech means that the government cannot use its power to prevent you from speaking or to punish you after the fact. It does not, however, give you the right to be heard or the right to speak free of criticism. You said things which upset a whole lot of people: for example, your transphobic rhetoric has made the lives of some of us significantly more unpleasant than would otherwise be necessary. If you’re going to incite violence against us, you can at the very least expect us to strongly oppose you. You certainly cannot expect us to let you speak at a venue partially funded by our money.

When we in Auckland Peace Action speak, we know what we’re getting into. We know that we’ll suffer a backlash, we know that we’ll probably get death threats on our social media, and we know that we’ll be labelled as cowards and traitors. It isn’t fun and we’d rather avoid it, but it’s not as though we say this and then act shocked and hurt that people disagree with us, and we are quite happy to engage in a reasonable manner with people who disagree with us strongly. Complaining about death threats is fair: complaining that someone finds your views repugnant and says as much is not.

  • Don’t be a hypocrite

As you never tire of saying, if you don’t defend freedom of speech for those you hate, you don’t care about freedom of speech at all. The thing here is that this applies to you just as much as it does to us: more so, in fact, given your absolutist stance. You must thus defend the right of us leftists to a platform, our right to be heard and our right to be free of criticism. When we are arrested for protesting peacefully, you should be the first to provide us with lawyers. When we are fired for our activism, you must help us feed and house ourselves. You should help us run international speaking tours and youtube channels to the best of your ability, and you should help us recruit new members whenever you can. Of course, you haven’t been doing any of this; quite the contrary. But it’s never too late to start. We’ll be blockading the NZDIA Weapons Expo later this year and you could help us billet attendees, run advertising campaigns and transport people to Wellington from around the country. We’re not asking for much: $2 million USD would be plenty, and it would help you feel much better about upholding your principles.

  • Consider that you might be wrong

It’s important to be able to take criticism. No human being, no matter how amazing, has ever had a perfect record of moral and political judgements, and there is no shame or weakness in being willing and able to change your mind. We have made many mistakes over the course of our activism: we’ve supported people who later turned out to be anti – semitic or racist, we’ve needlessly alienated people through senselessly violent rhetoric and we’ve taken positions on political matters that later turned out to be exceedingly foolish. It’s thus worth considering your ideas every so often and discarding those that don’t hold up to scrutiny. The idea that men and women are fundamentally different and that women are inferior, or the idea that Islam is a unified entity of malevolent intent, are two ideas that have drawn a great deal of criticism down on your head. All I’ll say is – think on them, and consider that you may not always be right.

  • There’s life beyond and after deplatforming

Finally, keep your perspective. Being deplatformed once isn’t deportation to Siberia. You can continue speaking, writing, publishing your material on the internet and doing more or less anything else you like. Your capacity to speak and express yourself has not been meaningfully infringed. And consider: even without access to the media, there’s still so much you can do. You can organise protests. You can put up posters. You can write zines. You can hand out pamphlets. You can even keep making your youtube videos like you did before you were so harshly deplatformed.

Moreover, there’s so much more of value in life than politics. Politics is first and foremost a means to an end: a world in which we can spend most of our time sitting in cafes arguing about art, write novels, make music and gossip about our friends’ polyamorous love affairs. We have a long way to go before we live in such a world: nonetheless, there are glimmerings of it in the world we’re in now. And, so long as you aren’t immediately threatened (many people are, but I suspect you aren’t), you might as well enjoy what you can in life. Go to the opera. Spend more time with friends. Drink wine while looking at the sunset. Go for a walk in the winter gardens. Despite all the ugliness, there’s more than enough beauty in the world to fully occupy your time outside of politics. For God’s sake, enjoy some of it: otherwise any battle, no matter how virtuous, isn’t worth fighting. And given how unvirtuous yours is, this is doubly pressing.

So, these are our hints for coping with the tragedy of being deplatformed. Try some or all of them: you’ll feel a lot better. And hopefully, after a few months of grieving, you’ll be able to move on with your lives and enjoy the world without having to fill your deep inner void by calling for genocides.

-Auckland Peace Action

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